The Story of the human race has cycled through numerous apocalyptic ages throughout our history.
And when we are there, it feels like the end of the world.
Our current Living in The Story leads us readers into Exile with Israel. Their world has ended in many ways and things will never be the same.
At the same time, as Living in The Story readers, we encounter the experience of the first century Christians. With the destruction of the Second Temple during the Great Jewish Revolt and the great defeat of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., their world also had come to an end.
During both these epochal ages, Judaism and Christianity evolved into something completely different. Something old died and something brand new emerged.
A new creation was birthed into the world.
This image of birthing is helpful as we consider how to respond to these apocalyptic times. When everything we know, everything we are is in transition, it can feel as if the the whole earth is in labor.
As I write this in the fall of 2019, our world is in tumult.
- Climate crises.
- Constant war.
- Rising violence.
- Ethnic conflicts.
- Class divides.
- Waves of authoritarianism in the U.S. and around the world.
I keep reminding myself this is not the worst things have ever been. But things are pretty bad.
Are we also in labor?
Will something completely different be birthed into the world as we make our way through this painful birth canal?
Call the midwife
I was a labor and delivery nurse in my first life. Fresh out of nursing school with no children of my own, I coached and encouraged mothers going through labor. The experience deepened me and opened me up to the mysteries of life and death as I had never known them before.
As a pastor, I saw myself as a kind of midwife, coaching and encouraging those who found themselves in some turmoil or another. All of us have been there and most of us recognize how trauma and crisis provide fertile ground for growth.
As a matter of fact (as the popular motivational example offers), the Chinese character for “crisis” brings together the two symbols for “danger” and “opportunity.” Both realities are present but it is up to us what we make of any given crisis. We can …
- give in to the dangers with confusion and panic.
- or focus and breathe and push through that which is out of our control.
We need to find some wise spiritual midwives to help us through these hard times.
We need to become wise spiritual midwives: grounded and calm and focused.
Finding meaning across the centuries
Making meaning as we read the ancient texts of the Bible is not simple (as we have seen throughout this year’s journey).
During these final weeks of Living in The Story, we are jumpimg from the 5th century B.C. to the 1st century A.D. and reading these long-ago and far-away stories from within the context of our 21st century lives.
Even so, I see connections in the dangers and opportunities of this ancient people and the dangers/opportunities that face us today.
If I am right – that we are living in apocalypse in 2019 – then how do we live faithfully?
- How do we ground ourselves in the faith of our fathers and mothers?
- How do we see beyond the crisis and danger of labor to focus our vision on new possibilities?
- How do we make peace with the reality that our own eyes may not see the new thing? That maybe our children’s grandchildren will be the beneficiaries of our faith and faithfulness?
I have no easy answers.
But like Isaiah and Jeremiah who cast their long-range vision of redemption in the midst of destruction; like John the Revelator who pulled back the curtain to reveal the Big Picture of God’s Presence and Governance in the midst of annihilation – I too want to midwife hope.
I want to stay grounded and focused; to remember to breathe; and to help my sisters and brothers push through all that is currently out of our control and on to whatever the next new thing may be.
Living in The Story readings for Week 38
See here Fr. Richard Rohr’s meditation on holding suffering.